United States sends warships near disputed island in South China Sea

The guided missile cruiser USS Antietam one of two warships the US Navy dispatched to a disputed island chain

The guided missile cruiser USS Antietam one of two warships the US Navy dispatched to a disputed island chain

The tensions between China and the United States over maneuvers in the South China Sea escalated last week, when the Pentagon revoked the Chinese navy's invitation to participate in the RIMPAC 2018 naval drills, accusing Beijing of "militarizing" the region.

The Chinese confronted the two ships - the Higgins destroyer and the Antietam cruiser - and ordered them to leave as they sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, an archipelago in the waters over which Beijing claims total sovereignty.

Several US officials who declined to be named said the two US warships came within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, maneuvering near Tree, Lincoln, Triton and Woody islands in the operations.

"The US has seriously violated China's sovereignty, undermined strategic mutual trust, and undermined peace and security in the South China Sea", Wu said, as quoted by the Japan Times.

Ships and aircraft were sent to the scene within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands to warn the United States warships to leave, with the ministry adding that its resolve to defend its land and waters was "unswerving".

In a statement, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said such operations "challenge excessive maritime claims and demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under global law".

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Woody Island in the Paracels is China's largest military outpost in the South China Sea, with more than 1,000 military personnel stationed on the island full-time.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which about US$3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods passes every year. China's behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise'.

The Pentagon cited strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to contested areas in the Spratly Islands.

Pompeo did not comment on the matter, saying only that the pair had had a "good discussion" about American concerns of militarization of the South China Sea.

Trump also escalated tensions with North Korea after he called off a planned nuclear disarmament summit with Kim Jong Un after the communist leader insulted VP Mike Pence.

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